The Weeknd, Starboy © Republic

Tracks: The Weeknd, Starry (ft. Daft Punk)

The Weeknd, Starboy © Republic


Urban contemporary superstar The Weeknd picks up where he left off in 2015 with promo single “Starboy” featuring Daft Punk.  

Every savvy artist who’s also a businessman (or woman) understands the importance of seizing the moment.  The Weeknd experienced the biggest moment of his career in 2015 when Beauty Behind the Madness became a multiplatinum hit spawning numerous hit singles (“Can’t Feel My Face” and “The Hills” namely). Smartly, The Weeknd capitalizes on his success by returning with his third proper album, Starboy on November 25, 2016.  The best way to promote Starboy? Release title track, “Starboy” of course, with the help of Daft Punk.

Like previous singles, The Weeknd flaunts his high-pitched voice in all its distinctive, beautiful glory.  Even given its high-pitched nature, The Weeknd himself retains toughness, keeping “Starboy” in line with the explicit singles he’s released previously. He references drugs – specifically cocaine – and drops the M-F bomb (“Look what you’ve done / I’m a motherf*ckin’ starboy”).  Furthermore, he flexes:

“All red Lamb’ just to tease you / none of these toys on lease too / mad your whole year in a week too…”

Beyond the lyrics, “Starboy” is superbly produced.  After opening with tone-setting distortion, a respectable groove anchors.  The overall sound is urban, but there are enough pop cues to give him more crossover success. Daft Punk are by no means the main attraction, but they don’t fade into the background either.  The contributions add to the distinctiveness of the record.  Also, doesn’t hurt they produce it either.

Final Thoughts

All in all, “Starboy” has the potential to be another hit for The Weeknd.  It doesn’t supersede “Can’t Feel My Face” or “The Hills,” but it complements those juggernauts.  He sounds as exceptional as ever, while Daft Punk provide a great lift.

The Weeknd • Starboy • Republic • Release: 11.25.16 
Photo Credit: Republic

Publishing Note: This track review was originally posted on The Musical Hype on September 26, 2016.

Niall Horan, This Town © Columbia

Niall Horan, ‘This Town’ – Track Review

Niall Horan, This Town © Columbia


With One Direction on an indefinite hiatus, the boys are unsurprisingly “spreading their wings” into solo territory.  Niall Horan becomes the first active member of the collective to drop a solo single in preparation for an album.  Horan gets all the female girls excited with “This Town,” which has both pros and cons.  Regardless of its flaws, Niall has something to offer the music world beyond One Direction.

“This Town” opens predictably. The sound isn’t unlike singer/songwriter oriented tracks from One Direction.  Songs like “Little Things” (written by Ed Sheeran) and “Story of My Life” come to mind.  The guitar lines are reminiscent to “Little Things,” channeling the same vibe.  It’s a respectable sound but overdone in the big scheme of things.

Horan sounds excellent vocally – he’s much more proficient than expected.  Horan is more subtle than his contemporaries, but it works.  The main rub is that Horan doesn’t exhibit much personality.  This has been a problem with One Direction as a whole, though they’ve improved to their credit.  Furthermore, the song itself is lovely, but not particularly rousing.

Memorability is the biggest issue with “This Town.” With Horan lacking the feistiness to be compelling artistically and the song itself treading the middle of the road path, it’s hard to get excited about a solo project from Niall.  He can sing and the song is okay, but cliché.

All in all, “This Town” is a respectable solo debut single from Niall Horan.  Vocally, he sounds great. He never under sings nor does he over sing – he’s balanced.  While the record is legitimately beautiful, it’s a bit boring – on the blasé side of things.  Good, but not transcendent.

Niall Horan • This Town – single • Neon Haze Music Ltd / Capitol • Release: 9.29.16
Photo Credit: Neon Haze Music Ltd / Capitol

Publishing Note: This track review was originally published on The Musical Hype on September 30, 2016. 


Shawn Mendes, ‘Illuminate’ – Album Review



Canadian teen-pop heartthrob Shawn Mendes goes bigger, more mature on enjoyable, respectable, sophomore album, Illuminate

Canadian teen-pop heartthrob Shawn Mendes has been promoting sophomore album Illuminate all summer long.  Mendes broke through in 2015 with his platinum-certified album Handwritten, which spawned a big hit with “Stitches.” Prudently, Mendes sought to release his sophomore album sooner than later and at least critically, it pays off.  There is a newfound maturity throughout the course of Illuminate.  Shawn isn’t a kid anymore…well, sort of.


Ruin” opens Illuminate with a bang.  Mendes doesn’t ruin – rather miss – an opportunity to shine, showcasing soulfulness and grit within his voice. “Ruin” sets the tone for Illuminate, an album that ultimately shows the teen artist maturing and embracing a wider audience.  The only rub? Arguably, could’ve been the second song on Illuminate as opposed to the opener (nitpicking).

Mercy” – one of many songs co-written by Teddy Geiger – maintains the high watermark established by “Ruin.” Arguably, given the quick tempo and high energy, “Mercy” could’ve been the album opener. Dramatic, Mendes once more amplifies the expressiveness of his pipes, further encouraged by gospel-infused backing vocals.  The topic is cliché (“please have mercy on my heart”), but “Mercy” has hit written all over it.

“Treat You Better”  

Initially, we (The Musical Hype) weren’t high Treat You Better,” criticizing it as sounding ever too similar to “Stitches.” While the similarities remain, “Treat You Better” is well-rounded and enjoyable.  Given its catchiness, it’s unsurprising that the record has become a top-10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100.  As the old saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Three, Empty Words” finds Mendes scaling things down – it’s more stripped and intimate. It serves as a stark contrast to the fun and catchier “Treat You Better.” His vocals are clear and well produced.  The production isn’t flashy, but pure, simple, and effective. The addition of backing vocals and more instrumentation (strings) is beautiful and quite musical. “Three, Empty Words” continues to show Mendes’ vast musical capabilities. It isn’t the most exciting record, but sound. 

“Don’t Be a Fool” 

Maturity continues to be the M.O. on Don’t Be a Fool.” Vocally, Mendes sounds fantastic, showcasing the sheer radiance of his instrument. He infuses every ounce of passion, which is shown through the rasp and earnestness of his voice. An old-school record chocked full of blues, Mendes makes it sound ripe and relevant.

The balladry of “Like This” is polished.  Mendes’ nuances are incredible.  He has the perfect instinctiveness to know when to push and when to pull back.  Excellently produced, “Like This” doesn’t reveal all its cards from the start. “No Promises” accelerates the pace a bit. It has an urban contemporary touch.  It’s not full-on contemporary R&B, but meant to be fun and flirty and quasi-simulate that style. Mendes executes its soundly, oscillating between his lower register and a respectable falsetto.

“Lights On” 

“Lights On” kicks off with a guitar, a key instrument throughout Illuminate.  Once more, the sound is urban contemporary-infused pop. The production work remains strong; it isn’t overdone or corrupt with a bag of tricks. Notably, Mendes “breaks the seal” of squeaky, clean teen-pop:

“Damn, you look so good with your clothes on.” 

Sure, there’s a clever chivalrousness throughout the song and the excerpted line, but he doesn’t rule out sensual things either:

“Start discovering your secrets / underneath these very sheets / your skin’s so perfect up against me / your lips are talking when we don’t speak.”

The gentle production work of “Honest” is a selling point.  There’s nothing too crazy throughout the course of Illuminate.  Once more, Mendes flaunts his lovely falsetto on the refrain. After powering through much of Illuminate, the falsetto serves as it’s a sensational contrast. “Patience” is groovy, but laid-back at the same time. In effect, it balances two extremes. Mendes’ vocal timbre on the refrain is golden – in the grittiest way possible.  The chorus itself is great:

“First you say you love me then you say you don’t / I wake up in the mornin’ and I’m all alone / tell me that you will and then you say you won’t / Can you make your mind up? / Cause I’m losin’ my patience.”

“Bad Reputation” 

“Bad Reputation” is a heavy song for an 18-year old, but well-written and ultimately, authentic.  The use of cello adds to the drama.  The best moment is undoubtedly the chorus:

“And I don’t care what they say about you baby / they don’t know what you’ve been through / and trust me, I could be the one to treat you like a lady / let me see what’s underneath, all I need is you.” 

“Understand” concludes the standard edition, establishing itself as the inspirational, gospel-tinged closer.  Interestingly, it features commentary by Mendes. Does he sound mature? Somewhat. He’s maturing, but still young.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, Illuminate is an enjoyable, well-rounded sophomore album from Shawn Mendes.  Clearly, Mendes has his eyes on the bigger picture, truly showing progression as an artist.  What makes this effort successful is the fact that he doesn’t alienate his young fan base (one damn aside) and he invites an older audience to give him a look.  All in all, Illuminate is a winner.

Gems: “Ruin,” “Mercy,” “Treat You Better,” “Don’t Be a Fool” & “Bad Reputation”  

Shawn Mendes • Illuminate • Island • Release: 9.23.16
Photo Credit: Island

Publishing Note: This review was originally published on The Musical Hype as Shawn Mendes Steps Up His Game on ‘Illuminate’ on Monday, September 26, 2016.  

Suicide Squad - The Album © Atlantic

10 Hot 100 Takeaways: The Chainsmokers & Halsey Still Tops

Suicide Squad - The Album © Atlantic

The story of the Billboard Hot 100 continues to center around The Chainsmokers as “Closer” spends its fourth week at no. 1.  Even so, hot on The Chainsmokers’ tails is Twenty One Pilots“Heathens,” which reaches a new peak position at no. 2.  Can Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun rise to no. 1? Time will tell, but this isn’t about “what ifs” but stories that have transpired on the Hot 100.  Here are some of the biggest stories for the Hot 100 dated September 24, 2016.



  1. The Chainsmokers (ft. Halsey) retain the no. 1 spot on the Hot 100 with “Closer” for a fourth consecutive week. A second single, “Don’t Let Me Down” (ft. Daya), remains at no. 5.



  1. Twenty One Pilots sees Suicide Squad track “Heathens” ascend from no. 3 to no. 2. Twenty One Pilots also have a second top ten single with “Ride” (no. 6).



  1. Charlie Puth earns himself another top-10 hit as “We Don’t Talk Anymore” (ft. Selena Gomez) ascends from no. 12 to no. 10.



  1. Drake sees “One Dance” exit the top 10. Mark this date down!



  1. D.R.A.M. sees “Broccoli” continue to ascend up the charts (no. 18 to no. 14).



  1. Ariana Grande’s “Side to Side” (ft. Nicki Minaj) jumps 13 spots from no. 31 to no. 18.



  1. gnash achieves a new peak position as “I Hate U I Love U” (ft. Olivia O’Brien) ascends one spot to no. 22.



  1. Hailee Steinfield & Grey see a 10-position spike for single “Starving” (ft. Zedd). “Starving” rises from no. 49 to no. 39.



  1. Travis Scott & Young Thug sees single “Pick Up The Phone” rise 30 spots from no. 73 to no. 43. Quavo is featured on the track. Furthermore, the best song from Scott’s Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight, “Goosebumps” (ft. Kendrick Lamar), starts at no. 92.



  1. Sia sees latest single “The Greatest” (ft. Kendrick Lamar) debut at no. 52.
Photo Credit: Atlantic 




Frank Ocean, Blonde © Boys Don't Cry

Thoughts: Frank Ocean, ‘Blonde’


Frank Ocean • Blonde • Boys Don’t Cry • Release: 8.20.16

It’s been a long time coming – a helluva long time to be precise – but Frank Ocean has returned. After tickling every critic and consumer’s fancy alike on Channel Orange back in 2012, he finally follows up with brilliant sophomore album, Blonde.  Blonde is a tour de force because it is clever, eclectic, and ‘left of center.’  Frank Ocean transcends R&B – can he even be categorized as R&B?  The fact that this is debatable – that his status in R&B is a polarizing one – further contributes to his distinctiveness as a musician and a true artist.

Is Frank Ocean perfect? No. We haven’t forgotten his lackadaisical live performances that threatened to derail his near-perfect studio versions. But, listening to Blonde and the subject matter and introspection conveyed throughout, it’s difficult not to fall for the bait.  The bait, in essence, has us “feeling way too damn good.” Check out the full, track-by-track review at the link below.  Frank Ocean, Blonde © Boys Don't Cry

Urban alternative musician Frank Ocean returns with his highly anticipated sophomore album, ‘Blonde’. He makes following up a masterpiece look easy. The post Frank Ocean Intrigues on Sophomore Album ‘Blonde’ 6 more words

via Frank Ocean Intrigues on Sophomore Album ‘Blonde’ — The Musical Hype

Photo Credits: Boys Don’t Cry 
Suicide Squad - The Album © Atlantic

25 Chart Takeaways: Suicide Squad Debuts at No. 1

Suicide Squad - The Album © Atlantic

For a second consecutive week, there is a new no. 1 album on the Billboard 200.  After the top-spot had been dominated by Drake (Views), last week, DJ Khaled (Major Key) ended the run.  This week, the soundtrack to box office hit Suicide Squad easily debuts at no. 1 on the Billboard 200.  What’s amazing is how big the gap between the impact of albums nos. 1 and 2 was this week.  Beyond Suicide Squad and the bridesmaid status of Drake, there are many other chart stories worth checking out from the Billboard 200 dated August 27, 2016.

  1. Suicide Squad: The Album easily locks down the no. 1 spot on the Billboard 200.
  1. Drake (Views) spends his second consecutive week at no. 2.
  1. Skillet scores the week’s second highest debut with Unleashed, which bows at no. 3.
  1. Blake Shelton gets a boost this week as If I’m Honest ascends from no. 9 to no. 4 in its 12th charting week.
  1. Now 59 debuts modestly at no. 5.
  1. DJ Khaled takes a tumble this week. Major Key slides from no. 1 to no. 7 in week two.
  1. DJ Snake takes album Snake to no. 8, the final debut in the top 10 of the Billboard 200.
  1. Cody Johnson just misses the top 10. Gotta Be Me settles for a no. 11 start on the BB200.
  1. Gucci Mane sees Everybody Looking slip eight spots (no. 11 to no. 19) in its third charting week. Everybody Looking debuted at no. 2 behind Drake.
  1. Hillary Scott & The Scott Family see Love Remains drop 21 spots from no. 7 to no. 28.
  1. O.A.R. returns to the Billboard 200 this week as XX debuts modestly at no. 31.
  1. The Cadillac Three (Bury Me In My Boots) enters the Billboard 200 at no. 34.
  1. Jake Owen had an abysmal second week. American Love free falls from no. 4 to no. 50.
  1. Chris Lane didn’t exactly light up the charts. Girl Problems debuts quietly at no. 55.
  1. Fantasia crashes and burns this week. The Definition Of… falls 60 spots from no. 6 to no. 66. Honestly, there’s nothing more than you can say but #Damn Fantasia.
  1. Red Hot Chili Peppers’ The Getaway slides 29 spots from no. 42 to no. 71 after just eight weeks on the chart.
  1. Dinosaur Jr., Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not debuts at no. 72.
  1. Nick Jonas slips out of the top-100 as Last Year Was Complicated falls from no. 74 to no. 101.
  1. Maxwell slips out of the top-100 as blackSUMMERS’night slides from no. 89 to no. 103.
  1. Nick Fradiani earns the worst debut of any American Idol winner. Hurricane debuts at no. 121 on the Billboard 200!
  1. NEEDTOBREATHE continues an unexceptional run with HARD LOVE. The album slips from no. 87 to no. 128 this week.
  1. Prince’s Purple Rain re-enters the Billboard 200 at no. 131. The Very Best of Prince falls, meanwhile (no. 88 to no. 146)
  1. Jason Derulo slides 50 spots as compilation Platinum Hits drops from no. 83 to no. 133.
  1. Marc E. Bassy’s latest EP, Groove People, debuts at no. 148.
  1. Slim Thug, American King debuts at no. 179.

An expanded version of 25 Chart Takeaways (BB Grooves) appears on The Musical Hype every Wednesday.

Photo Credit: Atlantic
Kanye West, The Life of Pablo

Kanye West – More Good Than Bad?

Musicians are complex people.  Being a musician personally, we beat to our own drum.  For some of us, keeping a steady beat seems to be near impossible.  Kanye West is one of those.  The man, regardless of personal opinions of him, is quite talented.  Most might be shocked to know that since 2000, he’s won a whopping 21 Grammys.  Also, he’s had “pop” success on the Billboard Hot 100 – that only happens every so often with rappers.

As science puts it, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”  In the case of “Mr. West,” for every accomplishment, he seems to misstep.  Mainly, West’s mouth gets him into a world of trouble.  Taylor Swift is the biggest faux pas.  But there’s also former President George W. Bush, the infamous “Famous” video, and a near mishap with Beck.  Sigh – Mr. West is one of a kind.

You be the judge. Is Kanye West more good than bad? Is he the devil? Check out a full analysis – in list form – about West.  The link (via The Musical Hype)  is featured below. And if you haven’t checked out what all the Hype is about – do that!

In the latest edition of our column Pros & Cons, one of the music industry’s most polarizing musicians is profiled – Kanye “I Am a God” West. 13 more words

via Pros & Cons: Kanye West — The Musical Hype

Photo CreditG.O.O.D / Def Jam
Fantasia, The Definition of... © RCA

Favorite Fantasia Songs?!

R&B fans – better yet Fantasia fans, what is your favorite song from her catalogue? Personally, “Bittersweet” tickles my fancy (Back To Me, 2010).  After examining all five of Fantasia’s albums (including The Definition Of), I selected a favorite and a least favorite from each.  Besides “Bittersweet” what made the list? Check it out at the link below!

Faves & Least Faves objectively and subjectively examines the best (favorite) songs and the worst (least favorite) songs from a musician’s discography. The post Faves & Least Faves: Fantasia… 6 more words

via Faves & Least Faves: Fantasia — The Musical Hype

Photo Credit: 19/RCA
Jacob Sartorius • ‘Hit or Miss’ – Single • TM3 Music Group

Jacob Sartorius: Wunderkind or Total Miss?

Is Jacob Sartorius a true wunderkind or is he more “hit or miss?” 

Online, there’s one kid who is getting his fair share of hate.  That is sensation Jacob Sartorius.  The 13-year old made plenty of buzz when he dropped single “Sweatshirt.” “Sweatshirt” wasn’t exactly well-received.  Take a listen, and it’ll be blatantly obvious why.  Sartorius has returned in all his pubescent glory with “Hit or Miss.” If you’re thinking that Jacob walked right into that one considering the title, you’d be correct.

“Hit or Miss” fires folks up at their most subjective.  Even objectively, it’s hard to get past the sheer corniness of Sartorius’ heavily autotune pipes, not to mention the rapping.  Furthemore, doesn’t reference “Casper” and “Blues Clues” lose all of your street cred? Sure, Sartorius had none to lose but still…

Enough rambling. Check out my incredibly kind thoughts towards J.S. below, if you dare! And please, check out The Musical Hype!

13-Year Old sensation Jacob Sartorius releases a follow-up single to the much maligned “Sweatshirt,” “Hit or Miss.” Sartorius sings & raps. The post Track Review: Jacob Sartorius, ‘Hit or Miss’ 6 more words

via Track Review: Jacob Sartorius, ‘Hit or Miss’ — The Musical Hype

Photo Credit: TM3 Music Group
Justin Bieber, What Do You Mean © Def Jam

Is Justin Bieber the Good Guy or the Bad Guy?

What’s the verdict on the polarizing Justin [Drew] Bieber? Do the pros outweigh the cons? On The Musical Hype, I have began a new series called Pros & Cons where I choose a musician and compile a list of the good and bad about the artist, whether it’s musical or not.  Who better to highlight the inauguration than the Biebz!

Justin Bieber is polarizing. Polarizing is a fitting characterization given the reactions he receives. We’re going to break down Bieber’s pros and cons! The post… 11 more words

via Pros & Cons: Justin Bieber — The Musical Hype

Photo credit: Def Jam